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‘A Hero’ Crafts Team Talks Risks and Rewards of Documentary-Style Filmmaking

"I always wanted my films to have actors where their faces are anonymous," writer-director Asghar Farhadi exclusively told IndieWire.

Asghar Farhadi's "A Hero"

Consider This: Conversations highlight film’s award-worthy productions through panel discussions with the artists themselves. The above video is presented by Amazon Studios and moderated by film critic Carlos Aguilar. “A Hero” is now in theaters and streaming on Prime Video.

Despite its title, “A Hero” is just about the furthest thing from a superhero movie one can get. The “slow-churning” film, as IndieWire’s David Ehrlich dubbed it in his review, is the perfect example of both the risks and rewards of documentary-style filmmaking.

Quite simply, “A Hero” is the anti-superhero, anti-hero movie of the year. That is, aside from the heroes who created its digital effects, according to writer-director Asghar Farhadi.

“[The post-production team] did such a good job, nobody can even imagine that this film has visual effects,” Farhadi exclusively said in an IndieWire panel discussion moderated by critic Carlos Aguilar.

Iranian filmmaker Farhadi collaborated with translator Rayan Farzad during the interview, alongside “A Hero” editor Hayedeh Safiyari and cinematographer Alireza Ghazi.

One moment that was digitally altered? A crowd scene, where Farhadi did not want any COVID-19 masks present in the film.

“We were shooting in the bazaar and there were lots of ordinary people passing by and they were all wearing masks. We just recorded and after we finished the film, we took the masks off and no one can understand people were wearing masks, and it really makes me happy,” Farhadi said. “Also, for example, the last scene that we see outside from inside the prison, the door, that’s visual effect, that’s not the real thing.”

Farhadi honed in on his own creative craft while writing “A Hero,” which is anticipated to be an Oscar contender.

“The thing that really excited me about this story was somebody gets under the spotlight very fast and then comes down out of the spotlight,” Farhadi explained. “Popularity is very small and short because people, really fast, find out about the past.”

He added, “In my other works, we have kind of a mystery, kind of a puzzle, and that puzzle creates suspense. In this one, instead of a puzzle, we have ambiguity. There is no mystery anywhere in this story, but the whole atmosphere is full of ambiguity. The bulk of the energy I spent on this screenplay was to replace mystery with ambiguity but still give the feeling of suspense.”

For the overall texture of the film, cinematographer Ghazi shared that Farhadi wanted a large emphasis on “the feeling of realism and documentary.”

“The lighting should be invisible and nothing comes out of the real world of the characters in post-production,” Ghazi recalled. Except, of course, the masks.

Editor Safiyari, who previously worked with Fahardi on “Fireworks Wednesday,” explained the difference between “A Hero” and other Fahardi films: “We wanted this one to be even closer to documentary filmmaking, from selecting actor moments, the intonation of the accents, everything,” Safiyari said. “We wanted to make sure it was really close to real life.”

"A Hero"

“A Hero”

Amazon Studios

Filming in the historic city Shiraz inherently channeled a long history of “past heroes,” Farhadi sais. The universality of “A Hero” was also meant to feel familiar.

“One of the most important things during casting for me is choosing the actors who have a very warm voice and face,” Fahardi said. “I always want my films to have actors where their faces are anonymous. They’re very fresh and the audience don’t have any misconceptions about those actors.”

Ghazi even watched rehearsals with the cast to observe their natural dynamic. “Everything that we did in this film, from the framing, from the light, from the camera movement, we made sure it was not out of the nature or the atmosphere of the living life of those characters,” Ghazi said. “Watching the actors in rehearsal really helped me a lot because it made me understand the way that the actors move, the nature of their body, the body language, it made me understand how to make it work to be even closer to who they are.”

And while “A Hero” may seem quieter compared to a cinema landscape crowded with action-heavy films, Fahardi purposefully set out to shock viewers with the film’s mounting tension.

“Movies that have a lot of action and outside movement are probably easier than movies that have a lot of things happening inside and a lot of things happening underneath in an ambiguous atmosphere,” Fahardi said. “We wanted to get into a rhythm that someone who doesn’t go to cinemas every week will like the film.”

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